Six Nations: Re-Inventing the Wheel

Part Three in our pre-Six Nations series looks at the ‘fresh start’ factor. National teams these days tend to think in four year RWC cycles, and build towards a planned crescendo at the next RWC. Southern Hemisphere teams, however, do it better than Northern ones – NZ last year and SA in 2007 managed to time their peaks just about right, Australia under Robbie Deans are targeting 2015, but only France of the NH sides successfully implemented a four year build plan – and it didn’t exactly run smoothly at all times.

So how are each of the countries viewing this year’s tournament? Will there be caps scattered like confetti, or more substitute appearances from the Leo Cullens of this world? We look at each country and rate on the Deccie Revolution scale, where 5 is never changing your selection no matter what the external circumstances and 1 is dart-throwing at a list of names i.e. Lievremont circa 2008.

France:

There is a revolution Jim, but not as we know it. The French players are largely the same, with some notable exceptions such as Yoann Maestri and Wesley Fofana, who can expect to go straight into the first XV, but it’s the new coaching ticket which gives this French team a new broom. Lievremont and his worrying moustache are gone, and Philip “Sale won the Premiership once” Saint-Andre is in charge, despite being a notably poorer candidate than Fabien Galthie. The priority is to stabilise the structure rather than change personnel – this group of players have very high currency in France, and it wouldn’t do PSA much good to start ditching them willy-nilly. This will be about re-establishing the relationship between management and players, media and fans.
Deccie Revolution Rating:

England:

The ongoing civil war between the clubs, the players, the RFU, the press and everyone else is immensely damaging to English rugby. The RWC preparation was poor, and the team were let down by senior players. Accordingly the management (Johnno) and some senior players have been cut loose. Stuart Lancaster is promising a back to basics approach, and some more enterprising rugby. There were quite a few new faces in the squad, and one can reasonably expect a new spine, and mentality, to be put in place. Lancaster may or may not be around to see it through, but it’s Year Zero for England right now.
Deccie Revolution Rating:

Ireland:

It’s like Bunker Hill in 1776 all over again in Camp Ireland – Deccie has jettisoned all the 30-something hangers on and brought in the youngsters who have been leaving their stamp all over this seasons HEC. Expect a fresh vision from the Ireland coaching staff this year – proven international attack experts have been brought in to work on Ireland’s tired and predictable attacking “gameplan”, and the new faces will ensure that the sense of urgency that we typically save for one game a series will become a constant. A new dawn.

Sorry, we were daydreaming there…
Deccie Revolution Rating:

Wales:

It’s a hugely different Welsh squad from the one we saw in last seasons Six Nations, but this is primarily because Gatty and Co decided to pass the baton to the generation of Faletau, Warburton, Priestland and North before the RWC. This revolution is in its early stages – the Grand Slam heroes of 2008 are being phased out and a new generation being phased in. Gatty made a smart move back in August – if the geriatricos had underperformed in NZ, there would be lots of changes; now he need only be incremental. They won the Slam at this stage of the last cycle, and Gatty will be feeling bullish about delivering another. Hey, what’s new?
Deccie Revolution Rating:

Scotland:

Robbo is by nature an evolution not revolution man, but there is a natural change coming. Pack hardman Nathan Hines and boring boot merchant Chris Paterson have gone, and the (mostly) incumbent 10 of the last while, Dan Parks, will not be around for too much longer. Some of the Embra lads, Weir and Jones, will come straight in, as will HupHup Tim Visher by June. Robbo is an underrated coach, and we have a suspicion he will manage incremental change (3 to 4 new faces) each year, and build towards 2015 with something of a sure hand on the tiller

Deccie Revolution Rating:

Italy:

Rather like France, the revololpution is in the coaching ticket. Jacques Brunel, fresh from leading Perpignan to a first Bouclier in forever, arrives to take the reins from Nick Mallett. Italy have been improving year on year, but the big breakthrough of 2 wins not over Scotland has yet to happen. They came close last year, beating France and being a front-line kicker away from beating Ireland, but they are still stuck at the glass ceiling. The personnel are virtually the same, and Brunel will be hoping Treviso’s promotion from Whipping Boys to Awkward Arthurs translates to the international level.
Deccie Revolution Rating:

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